Eager fans, new stadium awe players Large turnout a turn-on for practicing Ravens

July 31, 1998|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF Sun staff writers Mike Preston, Gary Lambrecht and Eduardo A. Encina contributed to this article.

Two years after a monumental move to Baltimore, the Ravens came home last night.

Home never looked so good.

"This is our new identity," wide receiver Michael Jackson said after 36,016 watched a 75-minute practice in the Ravens' new stadium.

"If I was a fan, I'd really love it. It's vivid -- really vivid -- with the purple seating."

The Ravens reveled in their new, $220 million palace at Camden Yards, which replaces Memorial Stadium this season.

Quarterback Jim Harbaugh called it "awesome beautiful." Defensive end Michael McCrary said it was "overwhelming." And linebacker Peter Boulware was bowled over by the large turnout for what was nothing more than a training camp workout.

"This is probably the nicest stadium I ever played in," Boulware said. "But what's even more impressive is how many people showed just to see us practice.

"It shows the loyalty of the city, and shows that they're fired up. And that fires us up. Teams feed on emotion like this."

It was, for some, a pause that refreshed in the middle of grinding two-a-days.

"It was a nice break, a chance to get away from the practices at Western Maryland," said offensive lineman Alex Bernstein. "For one year, I have heard this was a great football town, and tonight showed it with the large crowd. This was a great start, and hopefully it will carry over into the season."

After Jackson went deep for the first time in the new environment, he pronounced the lighting and the locker room "exceptional."

"The lighting was good for deep balls," he said. "You don't lose them in the lights like you do in a lot of stadiums."

The spacious locker room, with redwood stalls, is "better than anything we had in Cleveland or Memorial Stadium," Jackson said. "It's the best I've ever had."

Rookie receiver Patrick Johnson scored on a long touchdown pass, too, and had the look of a wide-eyed rookie when it was over.

"Being a young guy, it's just awesome," he said. "The turf is fast and I'm just kind of in awe."

Said defensive tackle Larry Webster: "I thought it was game time. I was getting ready to put a hurting on my teammates. This stadium is so nice."

The next step, linebacker Ray Lewis said, is to reward the Ravens' fans for their loyalty.

"With everything that's been said about this stadium, you wonder how wild is it going to be. It's crazy," he said. "The most important thing is, we have to produce. The fans have given us something. We have to give something back. For this many fans to come out to a practice, we'd better win."

Pub Date: 7/31/98

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